Lisa Nandy Asked For Keir Starmer's Permission To Meet With Striking Workers
Shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy had made Keir Starmer’s office aware in advance of her plans to visit striking workers in her constituency, despite frontbenchers being banned from attending picket lines, PoliticsHome understands.
The Wigan MP was photographed speaking with BT and OpenReach workers taking part in the nationwide Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) strike on Monday. Other frontbenchers were also pictured with striking workers on Monday including Navendu Mishra, a party whip, and Imran Hussain, shadow employment minister.
Nandy’s appearance comes just days after shadow transport minister Sam Tarry was sacked for comments he made while attending a picket line amid rail strikes organised by the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) workers' union.
Shadow ministers were told by the party leadership in June that they were banned from joining striking workers, but a Labour spokesperson insisted last week that the action against Tarry was due to unauthorised media appearances.
Sources on the Labour left have rejected the claim Tarry was sacked for comments to the media rather than for joining a picket line, and say Starmer has chosen not to apply the ban to other shadow ministers for factional reasons.
An ally of Nandy told PoliticsHome: "LOTO [the leader of the opposition's office] were aware in advance. She went down to show her support for constituents campaigning for better pay and conditions at a really tough time, as you'd expect.
“As Keir said in the Mirror piece yesterday, we support their right to do that, and what they need now is a Labour government so they don't feel like they're on their own when times are tough."
Starmer had stated in a piece for the Sunday Mirror that he supports the right to strike, and that his support went beyond “sentiment and a photo opp” because he “backed up [his] words with action”.
“I am now leading a Labour Party that wants to change lives and give Britain the fresh start it needs. That means turning from a party of protest into a party that can win power – then hand that power to working people. I make no apologies for that,” he wrote.
The presence of Nandy and other shadow ministers on picket lines, alongside Starmer’s words, have led some to suggest that the reported ban on frontbenchers joining striking workers has been lifted.
But Hilary Schan, co-chair of Momentum, said this change in approach was “not enough for Starmer to show that Labour is on the side of working people”.
"Labour should support labour – that's the message trade unions, MPs and Momentum have sent the leadership,” she said.
“But a seeming partial u-turn on his picket line ban is simply not enough for Starmer to show that Labour is on the side of working people.
"Starmer should immediately announce Labour's support for the BT, rail, mail and other workers taking strike action to defend their livelihoods during a cost-of-living crisis, and advocate an inflation-proof pay rise across the board.
“And Keir should lead from the front and get down to a picket line himself. It's time to end the confusion — and show the public whose side Labour is on: the workers of this country."
Responding to images of Nandy with striking workers, recently-sacked frontbencher Tarry said it was “great to see” her joining a picket line.
“Senior Labour politicians need to demonstrate loud and clear that our Party is on the side of ordinary working people who are fighting back against this anti-worker Government,” he wrote on Twitter.
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